[Columbus, Ga., June 16, 1866]
Personally appeared before me Rev. Robert Alexander, a freedman from Auburn, Macon Co. Ala. who being duly sworn, gave the following statement viz:
I have been living at Auburn Ala. for the last 5 months, teaching a school of colored children. I received an appointment as a regular minister for the Auburn Mission Ala. from the R. Rev. Daniel A. Payne, Presiding Bishop at the Annual Conference A.M.E. Church, dated May 21st 1866. During the night of the 14th inst. at about 10 o'clock four white men came at my house, they knocked at my door, and when I opened they asked who lived there. I told them and they then dragged me out of doors, clubbed me and carried me to the woods. Here they threatened to kill me, one of them with the name of Bob Willis remarked, that they would not allow me to preach to the colored people, that they want them to support their white minister. They stripped me off my clothes and beat me with leather straps until the blood was running down. After this they held a secret conversation together; when they came back to me they told me they would give me time to leave till sunday following, that the land belonged to them and no d— nigger should preach nor teach school there. They then left me.
While they took me to the woods, the women in the house I was living, run to Mr. Gracy, Justice of Peace and Agent of the Bureau in town, and claimed from him protection and help. He refused to do anything and not even left his bed. One white gentleman in town, saw the women and when he heard of the occurrence, he came in search of me;–he took me home and dressed my wounds.– I left yesterday, the 15th inst.
Affidavit of R Alexander, 16 June 1866, enclosed in Capt. Fred Mosebach to A.A. Gen'l O. D. Kinnay, 16 June 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 9, AL Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives. Sworn before Captain Frederick Mosebach, Freedmen's Bureau acting subassistant commissioner at Columbus, who transmitted the affidavit to General Wager Swayne, the bureau's assistant commissioner for Alabama; Mosebach's covering letter declared that Alexander's body “gave sufficient proof of the truth of his statement.” In response, Swayne's adjutant assured Mosebach that “every thing will be done that can be with our present limited powers.” (Bvt. Maj. O. D. Kinsman to Capt Fred Moseback, 18 June 1866, vol. 8, p. 57, Letters Sent, series 3, AL Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) Meanwhile, Henry M. Turner, a presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church who had encountered Alexander shortly after the beating, appealed to General Davis Tillson, the bureau's assistant commissioner for Georgia. Turner described Alexander as having been “covered with blood, where he had been beat and Stabed, till he was literally covered [in] solid gore.” The assailants had told Alexander that “if he was not out of that place by Saturday night, they would return and put him to death,” Turner reported. “They told him no damned negro school should be taught there, nor should any damned negro Preacher remain there, But the worse feature in the case was, that when the colored women ran screaming and crying to the Agent of the Freedmen Bureau, to come and save their preacher from death, he refused to get up, and merely replied that he could not do anything.” Prior to this attack, Turner noted, Alexander's life had been threatened several times. “Therefore General I call upon you to take action in this case, in the name of God and humanity, and in the behalf of the heart broken colored people there, Please vindicate our rights, if we have any.” Turner warned that “if the people of Aubern are not checked in their brutal procedure, There will be several colored preachers killed this year. The least evidence, that such an outrage would be passed by in silence, would embolden them for three hundred miles around.” (H M Turner to Brig General David Tilson, 16 June 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 632, GA Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) After learning that Tillson had referred the matter to General Swayne, Turner wrote to Swayne as well. “[W]ill you have the kindness to inform me . . . what you have done in the case,” Turner asked. “I want him [Alexander] to go back there, and preach and teach his school, The colored people want him, and the General [Tillson] assures me, you will see him protected. I had just prepared a lenthy document for the Secretary of War, with whom I am personally, acquainted, when I was happily informed by General Tilson, you would attend to it.” (H. M. Turner to Major General Swayne, 28 June 1866, Unregistered Letters Received, series 9, AL Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, & Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, National Archives.) No response to Turner has been found in the letters-sent volumes of Swayne's office.
Published in Land and Labor, 1866–1867, pp. 528–30.